Virtuoso Sees Long-Term Growth in Luxury Travel Market


Janeen Christoff

Virtuoso delivered an uplifting industry outlook at its Virtuoso Travel Week, taking place August 12-18, 2023 at the Bellagio Las Vegas. More than 5,000 attendees were both in person and virtually and the crowd was a mix of luxury travel advisors and Virtuoso Preferred Partners. 

The organization’s 2023 forecast indicates a bright future ahead for luxury travel. With an increasing number of high net-worth individuals around the world, Virtuoso predicts that the travel industry is growing 17 times faster than the global economy with 23 percent growth over 2022. By 2033, travel and tourism jobs will make up 11.8 percent of global jobs at around 430 million. 

This optimism is reflected by travel advisors’ outlook on the state of the business currently. When asked “how are you feeling about your business,” 88 percent of US Virtuoso travel advisors indicated optimism. Around the world, the sentiment was similar with most countries hovering around 80 percent optimistic. The UK and Ireland were lower at 58 percent. 

Virtuoso Preferred Partners were also feeling positive about the state of their businesses at the moment. Cruise companies, tour operators and destination partners all were well over 85 percent positive. Hotels hovered around 65 percent. 

While travel is booming, the industry still faces challenges, including air travel, artificial intelligence, climate change and overtourism. 

Advisors shared how climate change is shifting bookings, noting an increase in interest in cooler climes and northern destinations such as the Nordics and the Alps during summer and Lake Como during the festive holiday season. 

“Moving forward people will think about this year’s weather. We have to work with the climate and work to change it,” said Sharyn Kitchener of Mosman Travel in Australia. 

Many people concerned about a hostile AI takeover needn’t worry. Both Virtuoso executives and travel advisors noted that AI, while helpful, is lacking in substance. Its abilities didn’t go beyond producing generic information and the personal touch is what clients want now and will continue to want in the future. AI takes away the connection and the passion and putting that back into the hotel experience/travel experience will be the gateway to success.

“Clients are looking for specific advice and what [AI] systems offer is mass produced,” said Paul Tumpowsky, founder and CEO of Skylark. 

Looking to travel planning in the future, it was the belief of many advisors that the days of last-minute travel are over for the most in-demand experiences and that booking far in advance is advised going forward. 

“Book as far in advance as you can especially for typical destinations,” said Rebecca Masri, founder of Little Emperors. “Go as far as a year. Even though there is much more product, the availability is tight. We are seeing active bookings already for the next festive season.”

Virtuoso is bolstering its efforts to support the growing luxury market with tools for its travel advisors. It is engaging new consumers through content hubs on and is launching the consumer-facing So Virtuoso campaign, which has generated more than 7 million impressions in its first phase. The second phase, which has just kicked off includes inspiring stories of travelers who were assisted by their Virtuoso advisor. Virtuoso has also enhanced its popular Wanderlist website which can be downloaded as an app and helps travel advisors and clients by streamlining their desires and needs and driving sales and leveraging expertise. 

Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch advised agents to keep a handle on work-life balance during this year’s general session, advising them to focus on what makes them feel fulfilled. 

“Focus on your unique ability, that which comes to you naturally and fulfills you, and let that guide your business,” said Upchurch. “What feeds my own life energy is witnessing and enhancing the creative ways people can succeed, especially when we come together to achieve something we couldn’t have done alone. That is foundational to Virtuoso, and we see our future as supporting ever-more personalized paths of success. The quality of insights you have to work with directly affects the quality of the solutions you provide. In the same way, Virtuoso aggregates insights from across the network to provide you with the resources needed to adopt and adapt to your distinct business needs.” 

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